Keeping the Best Story Central
Words by Sarah Rice
Stories are powerful. They draw us in, captivating the human imagination. Stories have the ability to communicate beauty, truth, and morality in a way that cuts to the heart and evokes emotions. Stories make us feel deeply because they’re relatable. We understand the trajectory of our own lives in terms of a story, and it’s the stories we believe to be most true that take center stage in our hearts and have the greatest effect on our lives.
Typically the story that holds the greatest prominence for each person is his or her own. We are all quite consumed by the tale of our own lives, and it’s often a challenge to set our minds on anything beyond today’s pressing personal narrative—the spilled coffee and chaotic morning, the long commute and backed up traffic, the never-ending to-do list. Our consuming captivation with the plot of our own lives can become a somewhat depressing form of tunnel vision, though, particularly when life gets tough.
Is there hope for us when our own stories feel small, mundane, and full of troubles? Is there a story that gives greater meaning and purpose to the temporary pleasures and pains of this life? My seminary hermeneutics professor James Hamilton once wrote: “What we think and how we live is largely determined by the larger story in which we interpret our lives. Does your story enable you to look death in the face? Does your story give you a hope that goes beyond the grave? . . . The world does have a true story. The Bible tells it.”
There is only one true story that can bring meaning, purpose, and hope both to our lives and the lives of our children. It’s this story that we must seek to keep central in our hearts and our homes when the smaller narratives of our daily lives vie for center stage. So, what is this grand story, and how do we give it first place?
Tell the Story
The world’s true story is really God’s story, found in the pages of Scripture and told through many smaller tales that all connect to form one grand narrative. This narrative begins with the creation of the world in the book of Genesis and ends with the consummation of all things in the book of Revelation. Between these bookends, the story climaxes in the life, death, and resurrection of the story’s hero, Jesus the Christ—the only one with the power to change everything about our lives.
As we start to truly grasp God’s big story, it draws us in and enables us to make sense of our lives. It tells us why we’re here, what has gone wrong in our own hearts and in our world, and what (or, rather, who) is the solution to our problem. Jesus Christ is the hero of a story that’s epic, true, and life-changing for every human who believes it and finds themselves in it. If we’re going to keep this story central, we must not only know it but also tell it over and over in our homes.
I wrote Tracing Glory: The Christmas Story Through the Bible to help families tell the truest and best story to each other in a season that is dominated by many other flashy tales. This book is a daily Advent reading for the month of December that seeks to help individuals and families see and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ within its proper context of the Bible’s overarching narrative. Written with children, teenagers, and adults in mind, it begins looking back at the creation of the world and ends looking forward to the new creation, tracing the glory of Jesus Christ from start to finish. In each day’s reading, there is a key scripture to look up, a devotional commentary to read, a helpful summary highlighting the key point and showing how that particular Bible passage points to Jesus, and questions to prompt discussion with your families.
Make the Story Visible
Let’s be honest. The events, traditions, and gifts of the Christmas season tend to enthrall our hearts and consume our minds more than the reality of the long-awaited Messiah and King, who came and is coming back for us again. Our children are more easily enamored by tales of Santa Claus, with his bag of shiny new toys, than by the story of the Christ child in the manger. Santa brings kids stuff they can see, touch, feel, and enjoy right now! What does this baby of old have to do with their lives (and their parents’ lives) today? The answer is everything, but we need eyes to see it!
In addition to telling the Bible’s big story, another way to help keep it central in our hearts and homes is to make it visible. This is especially important for children. After I wrote “Tracing Glory,” I made a set of twenty-four three-dimensional ornaments to go along with the book. Year after year, I wrap these ornaments up and let my children open one each day of December as we read that day’s Advent reading. As they see and touch ornaments depicting creation, the fall, the flood, the tower of Babel, the Passover, the temple, and more it makes the story of the Bible that we are reading visible and tangible. The new Tracing Glory Ornament Activity Book has images of each of these ornaments, instructions for making them with your family, plus other fun activities such as a word search, maze, crack the code, and more that relate to different parts of the biblical story. This resource was created to help you make the truest and best story visible in your home.
Although we can (and must) tell the story and make it visible to our children, we do not have the power to awaken their hearts to truly see and be captivated by its hero Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that for us and for them. So, let us pray! Let’s ask the Lord to help us know and love his story, understanding and interpreting our own stories in light of it. Let’s ask the Father to shine his light in our hearts through the story of the Bible, giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). He alone infuses our own stories with meaning, purpose, and hope for eternity.
Sarah Rice is a pastor's wife and mother of four. She holds a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Tracing Glory: The Christmas Story Through the Bible, an advent reading for families published by 10Publishing. She writes regularly on Instagram (@gospelshapedwomanhood) and is currently writing a forthcoming book on gospel identity for women. She counsels, teaches and disciples women.